'God's Rottweiler' Pope Benedict Delivers 'Stern...Homily'; Reign Marked By 'Sexual Abuse scandal...Vatican Heirarchy in Disarray'

On Good Friday, New York Times Rome bureau chief Rachel Donadio emphasized the Pope's "stern Holy Thursday homily" and used a harsh nickname for him in the lead to her Friday story, "Pope Rebukes Priests Who Advocate Ordaining Women and Ending Celibacy," and threw in extraneous unflattering details about "a Vatican hierarchy in disarray."

Striking the tone that once earned him the nickname “God’s Rottweiler,” Pope Benedict XVI in a stern Holy Thursday homily denounced “disobedience” in the Roman Catholic Church, chastising priests who sought the ordination of women and the abolition of priestly celibacy.

Referring to recent efforts by clerics in Austria and elsewhere, Benedict said that although such priests claim to act out of “concern for the church,” they are driven by their “own preferences and ideas,” and should instead turn toward a “radicalism of obedience” -- a phrase that perfectly captures the essence of the theologian pope’s thought.

While there was nothing new in the contents of Benedict’s message, it was one of the strongest -- and most direct -- speeches of a seven-year-old reign that has more often been dominated by a sexual abuse scandal, repeated tangles with other faiths and a Vatican hierarchy in disarray. It also showed Benedict, who at almost 85 has been showing his age, in fighting form as a defender of orthodoxy, favoring a smaller church of more ardent believers over a larger community that relies on what he sees as diluted doctrine.